You already know about the barn I’ve owned the past 20 years – the one that gives this blog its name. It’s modest, as barns go – more of a carriage house, common in an old New England city like ours, but “carriage house” sounds pretentious and ours isn’t. I usually call them “urban barns.”
I grew up in a Midwestern industrial city, and barns were usually something we passed out in the country. Even so, my novels Nearly Canaan, Yoga Bootcamp, and Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, each feature a barn.
Here are ten I especially remember.
- Uncle Arlie’s. We spent many Sundays and holidays at my dad’s aunt and uncle’s farm. I loved climbing around in the rafters and loft, even though it was dangerous.
- Grandpa’s. A small “urban barn” at the rear of Grandma and Grandpa’s yard on the other side of town was stuffed with supplies for his plumbing company. I can still almost smell it.
- Dad’s birthplace. Once, traveling with Grandpa, we stopped at a farm in the middle of nowhere. He introduced me to a strange man and took me inside the barn on the farm while telling me this is where my dad was born. I was around five, maybe no older than seven, and didn’t fully understand, especially the idea of home births much less than Dad wasn’t born in a city. What I do remember is all the light shining through the slats of the walls.
- Moler Dairy. From our side window when I was growing up, we could see a working dairy. It had a large white barn facing busy Smithfield Road, while we were on a quiet side street. I did get to tour the bottom level a few times, with its stanchions and cows. The brick milking parlor was next to it.
- Hippie farm. After college, I shared a farmhouse with a circle of other free spirits. Its small, ramshackle barn provided living space for some of the characters in Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.
- Ashram. That sturdy brown barn is described in Yoga Bootcamp. It was Swiss-style, set in the side of a hill.
- Ivar’s. Our landlord in Wapato had one of the most impressive barns in the Yakima Valley. It was white frame, rather than modern metal, and had three large levels. It’s detailed in Nearly Canaan.
- The Antique House. The large attached barn, as many in New England are, is part of the house where elder stepdaughter reigns. It’s second-nature now.
- Silas and Connie Weeks. They were intent on restoring their ancient farm in Eliot, Maine. Quaker Meeting even had a wedding reception in theirs.
- Parsell Farm. Serves as a farm stand just up the road in Rochester. Our principal source of hay for the rabbits.
A few others I should mention include the massive Shaker barn in Canterbury where I contradanced once, and another in Ohio I once toured. A similar one, but kept to a single story, was at a friend’s summer home in Sandwich in the White Mountains to our north. And then there was a decrepit one at my goddaughter’s family in Enfield, Maine, that was too far gone to repair.
What are your experiences with barns?